Okay, writers, how do I frame this fiasco? Is it a provocation, like in Curb Your Enthusiasm, where Larry argues that, when a husband pays for his and Cheryl’s dinner, he shouldn’t also be required to thank the wife? Is this an “Asking for trouble?” situation?
Or is “one man, scorned and covered with scars” tilting at the windmills of misperception to “right the unrightable wrong”? (I kinda favor this one.)
Is it a misguided strategy to pull in readers by championing a ludicrous position? Or is it a subconscious effort to drive readers, even my most loyal readers, away?
It could be any of those things. Or maybe I honestly believe that Canadian football is better than American football. It’s possible.
I realize the subject matter here is admittedly narrow. There are likely few readers left, except for those who remember “Cookie” Gilchrist and “Prince Hal” Patterson. The readers who don’t just went, “Who?” and now, they’re gone.
First, a confession: Football is my least favorite of the major sports. Hockey’s my Number One. As my friend, Paul, says, “It’s in our blood.” Baseball comes a close second, partly due to the myriad “chess games” playing out on the field, and partly because baseball’s played in a season where Canadians can comfortably go outside.
My reservations about football are three in number. One, my city, Los Angeles, doesn’t have a team, so I have no one to root for. Since I don’t bet, I have no personal attachment to any team. Jaguars, Panthers, Falcons, Ravens. To me, they’re just fast animals and scary birds.
Two, I’m uncomfortable supporting an activity where a permanent neck injury is just a “clothesline” away. Though I’m constantly reminded by retired players that “football’s the greatest thing that even happened to me”, I feel queasy knowing that the veterans have sacrificed the ability to tie their own shoelaces for my Sunday entertainment.
Third, I’m not enthusiastic about a sport where the most high profile participants are the coaches. Football the most over-coached sport I can think of. As a lover of natural talent, I prefer to see the players just play.
Which brings me to Canadian football. Where the players just play.
I will not argue that the players in the Canadian Football League are equal in ability to their NFL counterparts. That, I’ll grant you, is not true. With certain exceptions. Before quarterbacking the Redskins, Joe Theismann played five years for the Toronto Argonauts. There was also Alex “The Horse” Webster, a fullback for both the New York Giants and the Montreal Alouettes. And let’s not forget Doug Flutie and Warren Moon. “Cookie” Gilchrist spent time with the Bills. The CFL was not without its standouts.
But there was also Argonaut receiver, Jerry Sternberg, who was a lawyer and before that, a water skiing instructor at Camp Ogama. The CFL, at least in my day, limited the number of American “imports” on a team to sixteen players, out of a total roster of thirty-two. The rest of the team was made up, generally, of graduates from Canadian universities, where there were no athletic scholarships and you played the game – check this out, Americans – for fun.
Brian Aston, a punt returner for the Argos taught Phys. Ed. at my High School. During the season. (That’s how well CFL punt returners were paid.) Monday mornings, we’d watch him, a white Band-Aid draped across his much-broken nose, limping painfully towards the gym.
My argument for the superiority of Canadian football centers exclusively on the rules. I assert herewith that the rules governing play in the Canadian Football League are better than the rules in the NFL. And I add, with confidence, considerably better.
I know the Americans out there aren’t going to agree with me. Americans are resistant to admitting that another country does anything better – HEALTH CARE – than they do. I’m just hoping that in the part of your brain that recognizes the truth when it sees it, when you consider my argument for Canadian’s football’s superiority – as concerns the rules – if you’re honest, you’ll agree that I’m right.
Let’s start with the field. A hundred and ten yards, and wider than an NFL field. Advantages? More room to maneuver. More wide-open play. More excitement. More fun.
That’s one for the CFL.
The end zone – twenty-five yards deep, instead of a dinky ten. Why is that better? Flexibility in the “Red Zone.” You can throw a pass using your entire arm. No “floaters.” No “dunkers.”
Also, with a deeper end zone, kickers can punt the ball as far as they can, no angling for the “coffin corners” or kicking the ball straight up. Deeper end zones puts the “foot” back in football.
That’s two. Unless you like dinky passes and hate kicking.
Speaking of punting, the CFL has no “Don’t hit me!” “fair catch” rule. The “special teams” have to give the punt returner five yards to catch the ball, but then, he’s fair game. (That’s why Brian Aston came to school with a limp.) Do you really love the “fair catch”, NFL fans? Doesn’t it feel just the slightest bit, I don’t know, not “football”?
Also – this one’s great – when you punt the ball into the end zone, the punt returner has to run the ball out. There’s no “let it go, and bring it out to the twenty”. If the punt returner gets tackled in the end zone, it’s a point for the other team.
Once again, there’s incentive for the kicker to kick the ball as far as he can. There’s nothing stupider than watching an NFL kick-off specialist really putting his foot to the ball, it goes through the end zone, and the kicker’s penalized for kicking the ball too far! Isn’t that what a kicker’s supposed to do?
There’s a bonus to “you have to run it out.” The single points minimize the possibility of a tie.
The “you have to run it out” rule also provides the most exciting play in Canadian football.
It’s the final play of the game. The score is tied. My heart’s pounding already. I know where this is going.
The team with the ball’s within punting distance of the end zone. The receiving team dispatches its own punter to receive. When the ball is punted into the end zone, the returner/punter gathers it up and, not wanting to be tackled in his end zone – costing his team a point and the game – he punts the ball back out!
Then – get this! – the first kicker retrieves the ball and punts it back into the end zone! And it goes on frantically from there – punt in, punt back out, punt back in, punt back out – I’ve seen this “punting duel” go half a dozen kicks. And once, the kick returner, instead of punting a third time, ran the ball back a hundred and twenty yards for a touchdown!
Are you getting excited? Are you changing your mind about Canadian football?
“Are you kiddin’ me? That kicking thing sounds stupid.”
Yeah. Till you see it.
Okay, so the all-around superiority of the kicking game – three.
Now here’s the clincher. The difference that, by itself, makes Canadian football better than American football.
No two-yard plunges into the line. No “flare” passes, gaining nothing. Everything’s downfield. Every play has to count. With only two plays to make ten yards, the players skills take center stage, their deep pass “hook-ups” and electrifying runs making the NFL, with their coaches’ “grind it out” mentality, look boringly “by the numbers.”
Three “downs.” That’s four.
Four indisputable reasons why Canadian football is better than American football. That and the incomparable Canadian Football League names.
Nobby Wirkowski. Sam Etcheverry. Garney Henley. Normie Kwong. Tom Dublinski. Bernie Faloney…
Who does the NFL have? Oh yeah.